The whole world is talking about the Russian opposition and anti-corruption activist Aleksey Navalny – and we at “East & West” too, though reluctantly, cannot remain silent on such an important event. We say “reluctantly” because this latest incident is a very dark affair in its earliest stages of development – we do not have exclusive insider sources that could pass on to us secret information that has not already been made public. We at East & West do not feel the pressure to jump to rushed conclusions – but there are a couple of things that we would like to add on the debate.

Navalny was poisoned on the 20th of August. From the very first moments, when he was screaming in pain in the plane and lost consciousness, his associates argued that he must have been poisoned. When Navalny was brought to an hospital in Omsk, where the plane he was on had made an emergency landing, one of his associates called the police but then she was surprised when so much police turned up. When the opposition leader appeared to be fighting for his life, they insisted he should be allowed to leave the country, to be visited by “normal doctors”. They appeared to believe that no-one was to be trusted, not the doctors in the Siberian hospital, nor the personnel in the airport cafe where Navalny had a cup of tea before the take off. Everyone could potentially be part of a large conspiracy. Liubov Sobol, one of the closest Navalny’s associates, said the Russian security services could have recruited the entire cafe personnel at the Tomsk airport, from which Navalny’s flight departed, in one hour. Did the Russian security services know Navalny was going to drink his tea exactly there?

Navalny has allegedly been poisoned by novichok, the notorious chemical that was used against former Russian spy Sergey Skrypal and his daughter two years ago, is the new consensus of the “international community”. The “international community” of course means Europe and America. Now the “international community” considers that fact that the substance used by Navalny was first created in the Soviet Union an incontrovertible proof that the Russian government must be behind this attack – and at least this appears to be the message that is being given to the public. The sole proof that the West has that the Russian government, that is, Putin, poisoned Navalny is that novichok is a Soviet brand. It’s clearly whether an accusation of this kind would stand in any court of law – it looks a little bit, how shall we put it, unsubstantiated. The fact that Navalny was poisoned is not necessarily a proof that he must have poisoned by the Kremlin.

Could the Russian government be behind the alleged poisoning of Navalny? Yes, it could be. After all Navalny has been a constant nuisance for the Russian state for many years and his associates, in spite of not exactly having the level of support they and the West wish they had, have often toyed with the idea of a revolution, Maidan or maybe Belarusian style, against the “regime”. Would it be in the rational interest of the Russian government to poison Navalny? Probably not. Or are the people in the Russian government really such inept killers that they first tried to eliminate an arch-enemy and then let him be flown out of the country, so that they could be incriminated? That would be a rather stupid move. On the hand, the “international community” would have made the Russian government responsible for Navalny’s poisoning anyway, even if he had remained in Russia and nothing about novichok had been exposed.